Friday, July 18, 2014

Runner Profile: Kirsten Maplestone

with Mr Pinchy.
Meet Kirsten a.k.a Kirk, who is a member of the crazy pants gang (if there is such a thing). This tall lass is usually decked in her bright tights when on the run, so you will definitely recognise her from afar. When she's not running, you'll see her volunteering at events. 

Didn't you spot this clown at the Rollercoaster Run this year? Or a mad woman passionately cheering the runners at Buffalo Stampede? :)

Last month, she had the spotlight focused on her when she completed her first marathon ever at the inaugural Surf Coast Trail Marathon. Talk about a huge fanfare! 

1. Ms Funny Crazy Pants, how long have you been running?
I’ve been running on and off for about three years and trail running since September. I was never good at or interested in running and only started as my work did the promoting for a 5k event and paid for our entry. Then a girl at work conned me into Run 4 Kids 14km, then quickly had me signing up for Run Melbourne half marathon (justified by saying it was just another 7kms).

I must admit I got swept into trail running too, I went on a running camp and on my return I signed up with 5 days to go for Leg 1 of Surf Coast Century with a relay team I’d never met before (BONUS I’m still great friends with you/them). SCC scared the heck out of me, battling 21kms of soft and hard sand, running through ocean water up to my waist, slippery mossy rocks and climbing sketchy cliffs with a massive drop below, all while my cheap hydropack was chaffing my back off (I’ve now invested in a quality pack). I had nightmares but signed up to battle it all over again this year for 50km.

2. In this short stint of time, do you believe you have grown as a runner? What are the positive changes you see in yourself?
Well I couldn’t have gotten worse, hahaha. I’ve always been a run/walker and struggled to get my asthma under control when I first started. I’m now finding the breathing easier and can keep a constant pace up for a while. Most of the battles are fought in my mind but I’m a stubborn cow and will NEVER give up. Quitting is not an option for me but I do like a good fight. I experienced a lot of pain as a teenager/young adult (with major jaw and facial surgery) which toughened me up. Maybe too tough as it took me over a week to realise my leg was fractured even when I heard the snap and was in denial.

(The fracture happened in January this year.)

I’ve gradually become more confident in my ability with the help from my might be a Facebook post, a hug before a race, a message to say I’ve inspired someone to sign up for a marathon (please don’t hate me after), even a special loom made by a friend's child….it all helps to make me stronger. And of course there is the training, you can’t improve without the hard work and qualifying for Two Bays 28km was my turning point. Being in a race with qualifiers and cutoffs was stressful but what an accomplishment. Crossing the line with my six year old niece holding my hand and a giant grin on her face was golden.

Crossing the finish line at Two Bays Run 2014.

3. And the negatives, if any?
Injury. I’d always been jealous of people with crutches and I took it all back when I had to deal with them in January from a fractured fibular (leg). Getting my fitness back was a surprising struggle but has made me more focused. It broke my heart to cancel the solid racing I had planned (Roller Coaster, Buffalo Stampede and North Face 50) but then I discovered volunteering and saw what happens on the ‘other side’ and it has been a blast. I’ve dressed as a clown (one of my greatest fears), strapped a cow bell to me for a whole weekend of cheering and extremely hard work, hung out with international champion runners such as Anna Frost and Dakota Jones and collected life long friends from around Australia who I’ve made plans to run with in the future.

So technically there are no negatives to running.

(Talk about extreme positivity! :D)

4. Congratulations on your first ever marathon, the Surf Coast Trail Marathon! Was it scary? Was it fun? Was it super duper awesome? Tell us about it!
It was MORE than super duper awesome. I didn’t realise how many amazing people I knew until race day. I turned into a hugging monster (and I rarely hug people) every time I turned there would be another familiar face wishing me all the best. The morning was bitterly cold with a giant king tide thrown in for free, adding an extra kilometre to the course but what a crazy, epic, fun adventure. I was so humbled to see friends come out to the start line for the marathon even though some weren’t racing until later that morning for the half marathon. As we progressed into the course there was honking horns and people jumping out all along the course and the mega awesome volunteers (especially the SCTR crew).

I shared so many laughs along the trails and mainly hung with Olivia Blackney, Frank Welburn and George Mihalakellis. What a bunch of complete wackos and honourable people! Frank is a brilliant battler, the always supportive George and Olivia, my running angel who helped me battle the pain demons and kept me laughing.

Race wise I started off strong then fell apart with a giant blister forming on the arch of my foot 4km in. I finally felt the built up liquid explode at around the 25km mark which was excruciating (insert mini breakdown while no one was watching). I was also dealing with a constant pain shooting across the top of my foot which I struggled with and essentially slowed me down to a walk for majority of the stint.

Rocking the beach during the Surf Coast Trail Marathon!
Photo credit: Dandy Runner.

The course was amazing and not any part similar along the 43km. The gruelling soft sand, rough ocean waves, beautiful enclosed single trail, open gravel paths, stairs and a little hillage all topped with the most stunning views around and a bonus rainbow erupting from the ocean.

Coming into the finish line along the beach I could hear my name being shouted by friends who had waited the eternity for me to arrive and I was so touched. They lined the steps and I melted into a blubbering mess (thankgod for sunglasses). Tears of relief, pain and most of all happiness.

Overall my first marathon plan fell apart, I didn’t train enough, I had no clue on what I was doing, I stuffed around on the course (but it was fun), I should have prepared more, pain won the mental battle, but I wouldn’t change a thing I did on the day. I learnt a lot and this is only the beginning towards my other goals. I will never forget my first (ultra) marathon and so happy it was a trail shared with so many others going for their first too.

5. Being relatively new to running, what are the best advice you have received and remember?
It’s not really advice but it’s more about returning what other runners have done for me. I remember being scared, embarrassed and the constant struggle - I want to alleviate that for everyone (especially the newbies so they don’t give up). I still have bad days and know people will pick me up when they can and when I’m having a good day I can lend a helping hand or words of encouragement.

I remember my first half marathon when a complete stranger who was also running kept saying nice words to me (at the time I thought she was a wacko but I appreciate and understand it now).

It’s also just as important to volunteer because without support these events wouldn’t happen. I’m constantly recognised as the ‘Buffalo Girl’ - I guess it’s hard to forget the chick who was screaming and ringing a cow bell for two days straight at Buffalo Stampede. I do apologise for my loudness but I did get swept up in the atmosphere and awesomeness of all the runners tackling Skyrunning. I followed them all from registration, to the start line, along the course and to the finish line - I wanted to make sure each and every one of my buffalos were home safe.

6. Out of curiosity, how many pairs of crazy pants do you have? Would you like to share with us a picture? :D
I have 11 crazy running pants, about 30 crazy casual leggings and four crazy bathers. I gained the nickname ‘Bright Tights’ and I’m so excited the fad is catching on. I love seeing people going nuts on their outfits. 

Funnily enough I used to be a gothic and wore a lot of black, now I love to wear colour vomit as much as possible. I may look stupid but I really don’t care. To me running is about having fun and sharing the #TrailLove

7. When you’re not running, what would your lazy weekend involve?
Walking the dog (Mr Pinchy), stuffing my face with heaps of food and sleeping. In my spare time I attempt the dating scene - it’s just hard finding someone who understands my need to spend hours and hours outdoors running on trails that could possibly kill me, so I don’t try very hard.

8. Random question. What’s your favourite pizza topping?
Aussie with a gooey egg.

She loves her fluoro colours, too!

9. What advice would you give to those who are curious about running but are too scared to start?
Find a running club, there are heaps out there - my main two are Surf Coast Trail Runners and TXR Runners. I also highly recommend parkrun (held every Saturday all over the world - it’s a FREE timed 5km run). Running with people makes such a difference and the support will make you all warm and fuzzy. I used to lurk within a Facebook group but finally got the courage to show up and I not only have people to run with and push me but there’s always friendly, familiar faces for support at races…..and they too will make you cry one day at the end of a marathon.

Thank you for your time, Kirk. I'm sure everyone enjoyed reading your story and looking forward to seeing you in one of your crazy pants (and clown hair) very soon!

This weekend, we will be at the You Yangs Running Festival. The 100 Milers start running on Saturday morning, while the 15/30/50/80km runners run on Sunday. Good luck to those who are running this weekend, be it the You Yangs or the Salomon Trail Running Series Race 2 at Plenty Gorge!

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